Can You Earn Scholarships Without The FAFSA?

  • You can earn scholarships without the FAFSA, however, if may limit your scholarship opportunities.
  • Although it’s not essential for earning a scholarship, it is strongly advisable to complete the FAFSA.
  • The FAFSA qualifies you for various other types of financial aid besides scholarships.

The short answer is yes, you can earn scholarships without the FAFSA. However, this is not the recommended option. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) opens doors to several other types of financial aid aside from scholarships. Not filing the FAFSA may limit your scholarship opportunities. For example, it is mandatory to file the FAFSA to apply for federal government and state scholarships. However, private organizations generally don’t require it.

Here’s what you should know about the relationship between FAFSA and scholarships. And more importantly, why we strongly recommend filling out the FAFSA if you’re applying to college or are already in college.

Student on laptop applying for scholarships

The Relationship Between the FAFSA and Scholarships

Scholarships are awarded by several different entities including the federal government, some states, colleges, and private organizations. Each funding organization sets its own eligibility requirements, which are unique to that particular opportunity.

  • Federal scholarships & the FAFSA: The federal government requires all students to complete the FAFSA to be considered for any type of federal financial aid. This includes scholarships, grants, and federal loans. Without filing the FAFSA, you cannot qualify for federal scholarships.
  • State scholarships & the FAFSA: You need to file the FAFSA to apply for state scholarships too. States vary widely in terms of their eligibility criteria but filing the FAFSA is the one requirement that’s common to all.
  • College scholarships & the FAFSA: Some schools don’t require students to fill out the FAFSA to qualify for merit scholarships. However, scholarship policies vary from one college to another. Some colleges may not offer merit aid or scholarships to students who have not filled out the FAFSA.
  • Private scholarships and the FAFSA: Every year, private organizations of all sizes offer generous scholarships to help cover the cost of college. These typically don’t require you to file the FAFSA. They are awarded based on various criteria set by each individual organization.

Why Some Colleges Require the FAFSA for Scholarships

There are several reasons why some colleges require the FAFSA for awarding scholarships.

Colleges that require the FAFSA use the information on the form to screen applications. Some may use it to verify citizenship so that only citizens and those eligible for Federal aid are considered for scholarships. Other colleges use the FAFSA to make sure that the student has maximized their need-based aid. These colleges won’t consider you for merit-based aid without the FAFSA because it indicates that you don’t need financial aid.

Still, others use the FAFSA information as a deciding factor for students who are on the borderline for merit scholarships. If, for example, three students are tied for the scholarship award. A student who has maximized their need-based aid on the FAFSA may get preference because the family perceives a need. If you didn’t fill out the FAFSA, it indicates you don’t need the financial aid. In this situation, you would lose out on the federal student aid and the scholarship award.


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Why You Should Fill Out the FAFSA Every Year

Your FAFSA application is valid for one academic year only. To receive any type of federal financial aid for every year that you’re in college, you have to fill out the FAFSA every year. The application window opens on October 1 and closes on June 30 every year. It’s best to file the FAFSA every year regardless of whether or not you are applying for scholarships.

These are just some of the reasons why filling out the FAFSA every year is so important.

  1. Winning a scholarship one year is no guarantee that you’ll win the award the next year too. Let’s say you win a scholarship that helps cover the cost of tuition for the current year. The next year, you will have to apply again and your application will be reevaluated. If you don’t win the award the following year and you also haven’t applied for the FAFSA for that particular academic year, the only alternative would be to take expensive personal loans.
  2. Aside from the scholarship factor, your financial need may change from one year to the next. You may not need or qualify for aid in the current year. However, a lot can happen between now and the next year. Your parents’ income may change. The cost of college may change depending on your program. You may decide to transfer. Your sibling may start college in the next year or two. Any one of these could change your need for financial aid.

Although you can get scholarships without FAFSA, it is advisable to go ahead and file it anyway. The form is free. All it will cost you is a few minutes of your time. If, for whatever reason, you decided against it, these are a few scholarships that don’t require FAFSA.

Scholarships That Don’t Require FAFSA

1. Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund

The David-Putter Scholarship Fund offers multiple awards every year to students who are active in progressive movements for social and economic justice. These are need-based scholarships for undergraduates at college or university level. You don’t have to be a US citizen to apply for this scholarship. But you must have participated in relevant activities in the US. You must also be planning to enroll in an accredited undergraduate or graduate program in the US.

2. American Nuclear Society (ANS) John and Muriel Landis Scholarship

The American Nuclear Society (ANS) John and Muriel Landis Scholarship offers $1,000 – $4,000 every year to students pursuing careers in nuclear engineering, nuclear science or other nuclear-related fields. It is open to high school seniors, undergrad students and graduate students.

3. La Unidad Latina Foundation Scholarship

The La Unidad Latina Foundation Scholarship offers $501.00 – $1000.00 to Hispanic students enrolled in an eligible bachelor’s or master’s degree program. Applicants must reside in the US and have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.80. Undocumented students and non-US citizens are eligible to apply for this scholarship.

4. Foster Care to Success Scholarship

The Foster Care to Success Scholarship offers awards ranging from $2,500 – $5,000 based on a combination of need and merit. The award is renewable for up to five years if you remain compliant with the program. To qualify for this scholarship, you must have been in foster care for twelve consecutive months leading up to your 18th birthday. Or you must have been adopted or placed into legal guardianship after your 16th birthday.

5. Momeni Foundation Financial Assistance Scholarship        

The Momeni Foundation Financial Assistance Scholarship offers ten scholarships every year for amounts ranging from $500 – $1000.00 each. The scholarship is open to high school students and current college students of all levels and of Iranian descent.

If you decide you don’t want to file the FAFSA, your best bet for scholarships is likely to look for private scholarships. Search our scholarship database to find private scholarships that you can apply for now.

Although you can get scholarships without FAFSA, your options could be limited. We strongly advise all students to fill out this free form. If you need help, check out our FAFSA page for the most up-to-date FAFSA information.


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